If your bladder is not the first thing that springs to mind when planning your dinner menu, consider yourself fortunate. People who have overactive bladder syndrome (OAB) typically do need to consider their situation when deciding what to eat or drink, since certain foods and beverages can trigger their symptoms.
Experts always caution that every bladder is individual. What triggers your overactive bladder may not be the same thing that triggers someone else’s. But there are some foods most people should try avoiding because they’re commonly associated with triggering OAB:
Citrus fruits. Oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes and grapefruit are acidic, which can irritate your bladder. (Pineapple, too.) That goes for juice from citrus fruits, too. Switch to a nonacidic fruit like bananas, pears, or berries. Some people can also tolerate reduced-acid versions of orange juice and other juices, and some people tolerate apples and apple juice just fine, too, as another alternative.
Tomatoes. Say goodbye to tomatoes and products made from tomatoes, like salsa and spaghetti sauce. They’re also irritating and can make OAB worse. Some groceries sell low-acid tomato products, or you could opt for a fruit like pears or blueberries.
Drinks containing caffeine. You may have to avoid coffee, some sodas, and black tea, substances notorious for containing caffeine, which unfortunately can be a bladder irritant. And even the decaf versions still contain small amounts of caffeine. Switch to green tea or another caffeine-free drink.
Chocolate. Brace yourself. Chocolate also contains caffeine, so it’s another item to avoid. If you just can’t bring yourself to give up chocolate, try eating only small amounts.
Diet soda. Some research suggests the aspartame that sweetens diet soft drinks may also lead to more frequent urges to urinate. Plus, they’re carbonated, which is another possible OAB trigger. Opt for water or non-citrus fruit juice to wet your whistle.
Other drinks and foods with artificial sweeteners. The artificial sweeteners may make you feel like you need to rush to the bathroom more often.
Spicy foods. Again, this can vary from person to person. But if a spicy food causes problems for you, try something with a little less heat.
Reluctant to give up some favorite foods even though you don’t know for sure how they will affect your bladder? Try eliminating one item at a time for one week, then reintroducing it. If your symptoms don’t reappear, you’re probably safe to start eating that food again.
Eat more fiber. It’s advice you’ve probably heard before—for a variety of reasons. One particularly good reason to boost your fiber intake is because it can keep your bowels functioning properly and regularly. Constipation tends to make OAB symptoms worse by putting additional pressure and stress on your bladder.
Take a good look at your diet to see if you’re eating enough high-fiber foods to ward off constipation. Good sources of dietary fiber include:
Manage Your Fluid Intake Wisely
Managing your fluid intake can be a delicate balancing act. If you drink too much, you can trigger your overactive bladder. But if you drink too little, your highly concentrated urine can also irritate your bladder—and also provide a breeding ground for bacteria that might lead to a urinary tract infection. Set a manageable goal of about six glasses of fluid per day. Try to drink mostly fluids that are gentle on your bladder, such as water or cranberry juice or even grape or apple juice.
So you’ve made all the typical modifications to your diet. You’ve eliminated your trigger foods and made an effort to drink plenty of water and eat lots of fiber. But you’re still constantly rushing off to the bathroom. Diet changes can’t fix everything, though. Talk to your doctor about strategies to retrain your bladder. Your doctor may always want to make sure that nothing else is contributing to your particular case, so you may need a physical exam to rule out other problems. You may also be a good candidate for certain medications to help your bladder function more normally.